When we first met Bugsy he was busy being was a total disaster as a lesson pony at the big, busy barn where we were taking lessons.
He was impossible to catch in the field. The owner's daughter was the only person who could catch him -- and then one day he kicked her, hard, right in the chest.
What happens to a naughty pony? They can end up at auction, a dangerous place for a pony. They can end up anywhere even a slaughter truck..
Luckily, the barn owner cared about where Bugsy went, even though she was really mad at him for kicking her daughter.
She thought our then-7-year old daughter Djuna might be a good match for him. She offered, and we said YES! (If we had known then what we know now, we never would have taken him! But we were new to country life and couldn't believe we were being offered a FREE PONY!)
Bugsy and Djuna met and they clicked. So much of YA horse literature is about the love story between a kid and their horse. Two misfits, no one else understands them -- until they find each other. So much of this is true with horses. There is chemistry. We got this with Djuna and Bugsy. She was a timid rider. He was a misunderstood pony. They just loved each other.
And then, on our little farm Bugsy figured himself out. It turns out maybe he was just really shy and the big barn was too much for him.
He made an equine best friend, Jasmine (another FREE PONY, also a little misunderstood, although she never quite rehabilitated!). He stopped being hard to catch. He stopped even thinking about kicking us. He went from naughty pony to dream pony.
And then we discovered one of his greatest talents -- giving pony rides and lessons to even the littlest children.They say that some horses and ponies "take care of their riders". Bugsy does exactly this.
Bugsy has carried kids as young as two years old, and it seems like he tiptoes, he is so careful. He has given rides to kids with a variety of special needs, and he is just as careful. It is no wonder that so many of our returning kids call him "MY pony, Bugsy".
He is a special pony, and we are so lucky to have him, and delighted to share him with our guests. Rides on Bugsy are included in farm camp, as often as kids want.
Why Farm Camp?
We started the Farm Stay years ago for one obvious reason: to pay our hay bill.
We were reckless and ignorant when we moved from Brooklyn to start a farm. We were quickly stunned to learn how relentlessly expensive a farm is in every single way. So many bills and needs! And you can't work full-time because you're taking care of the farm. And you can't properly take care of the farm unless you have money.
But we had a guest apartment on the property, and we could at least make our hay bill if we rented out the apartment.
At first I charged so little that I only offered an hour of my time: a quick farm tour on the first morning. We offered pony riding for an extra fee. This all seemed fine.
But then the pandemic happened. To cut down on turn-overs, I made the summer 2020 rentals a six-night minimum. And then because everything was closed and there would be nothing to do, I offered Farm Camp: Two hours of instruction and chores and climbing fences and undoing latches and bottle-feeding lambs and building the earth oven and so on.
At first I worried it would be hard to fill the time.
And I worried about forcing kids to do work.
But then I did it anyway.
And it turned out to be the best thing.
Spring, at last...
Farm vs Wild
We have a weasel.
She's gotten about ten chickens so far. We go down in the morning to do chores, and we find a dead, headless chicken. In one case, we just found a hole in the chicken wire to the coop, with some blood smeared on the door frame, and a few feathers.
It's a terrible feeling. We were supposed to protect the chickens. We promised them. That was the deal. You give us eggs, and we will feed and house and protect you. We might kill you eventually, but we will do it as quickly as we can, because we know you. We held you when you were a baby. We watched you grow. It's the Great Domestication Deal.
But it doesn't take away the reality of wilderness vs agriculture. The woods vs civilization. As farmers on the edge of the woods, we are at the frontline of this ancient battle.
Do we revere nature and respect the weasel's need for food?
Or do we stake her out with a rifle in hand and try to kill her?
My husband is unequivocally taking the latter approach. He was up at five this morning, leaning against a hay bale with a rifle laid across his chest, waiting. It got light, and he saw a dead, headless hen lying in the corner of the barn; the weasel had already come and gone.
We have been lucky all these years, with very few predators. Our hens and rabbits free-range. Those days may be over.
We are barely halfway through February, but ... I... am... DONE.
It's not even that I am sick of winter. I love so many things about winter. And I'm happy to actually have some snow this winter. It's just that spring is better than winter!
March is just around the corner and March generally hits us like a flatbed truck filled with seedlings, chicks, piglets, projects, plantings, hope, excitement, and general mayhem. The truck hits us hard, and every one of those items piles on top of us like an avalanche of busyness. So exciting.
In preparation for that avalanche (because that truck is not going to fill itself), I am obsessively looking at chicken catalogs, emailing my farmer friends about when they're expecting baby animals, growing seedlings in my living room...
I was just texting with a farmer friend down the road. I saw her pictures of new baby goats on FB and asked her about them. She offered me baby boys, $50 apiece, if I come get them right now. Talk about forcing my hand! I told her we had to wait.
It is like the welling up of excitement and energy. It's coming!
We had a great summer. The farmstay was booked almost constantly -- our best year yet.
Thank you to our wonderful guests, who make our farmstay possible-- not only with your business, of course, but more importantly with who you are. I truly enjoy meeting you all, talking about your children, sharing what I have learned about farming, chatting about life. I always say that we have a self-selecting crowd, and it is what makes this business possible for me.
It is a joke in our family that every time I come up to the house from the farm tour, I announce as I walk in the door some variation of, "Those people are super-nice." "Wow, those people are cool." or "You have to see this kid. Oh my god. He's cute."
Thank you all! Thank you to our repeat visitors, who are ever-growing in number. And thank you to all who are just stopping in on this site to check it out, thinking about a farm stay visit.
I'm Larissa. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved animals, and always felt the urge to MAKE things. In my farm life, I get to pursue both these paths. Luckily, my husband and kids feel the same way.